Join Our Community

Where Stress Lives

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

Where Stress Lives

It really is all in your head.
Laurel  Mellin
Laurel Mellin More by this author
Nov 22, 2011 at 09:00 AM

Over the last 20 years, research has shown that the source of most of our stress is the brain itself. Given the onslaught of stress in daily life, it can easily become wired to favor stress—to amplify the real stress in our lives and manufacture a sense of imminent danger, even when there is none. Each time the stress of the day overwhelms your capacity to effectively process it, there is a price to pay. That price is an increase in your allostatic load, the wear and tear in the body and brain due to episodes of stress. That load of stress is cumulative, and given enough episodes of stress, it can turn a perfectly normal brain into one that is stuck in stress, constantly producing cascades of stress hormones. As allostatic load increases, the brain becomes highly sensitized to stress, and in time begins to erode the very structures and processes that were designed to protect you from stress. Then you become a magnate for symptoms. Whether it’s blood pressure, back problems, weight gain, infections, stomachaches, sexual problems, depression, anxiety, hostility, relationship problems, addictions, or various compulsions, each stress symptom further increases your stress load. Before you know it, you have organized your life around trying to fix what is wrong with you, and you are so mired in stress that you forget how great you could feel.

The goal of Emotional Brain Training (EBT) is to reverse your allostatic load by using simple tools that give you the capacity to be at any level of stress and find the precise pathway through the brain back to a state of joy. The more moments you spend in well-being, the more you turn around stress-related increase in allostatic load, and the myriad stress symptoms tend to improve. The strategy is to rewire self-regulation, the fundamental way we process daily life.

Instead of tolerating feeling stressed out, you identify your level of stress, then choose the corresponding tool to switch your brain back to a state of well-being. You do that again and again over time—for the brain only changes by repeated experience—and at some point you will download into your brain the pathways to move through stress rather than getting stuck it in. You will sense that, at long last, you have an emotional anchor, a safe haven within. You will be free to feel your strong, robust emotions, and at liberty to experience any level of stress, confident that you know just the mental practice that will switch you back to a state of well-being. Things that used to cause you to clench your teeth, raid the refrigerator, scream at your kids, or hole up in the den, won’t bother you anymore. And most of those issues that you swept under the rug will have disappeared.

At that point, you have become a wizard of your own stress processing, and, even though life will still be difficult, and you will still find yourself stressed out some of the time, more often than not, you will feel joy regardless of circumstance. It’s a wonderful way to live, and it all starts with turning your attention away from problems and toward the elegant act of using precise mental tools to rewire your emotional brain.

About Author
Laurel  Mellin
Laurel Mellin, author of the New York Times bestseller The Pathway, is an associate clinical professor of family and community medicine and pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine. She directs the national researc Continue reading